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Behind the scenes at the Can-Am Mini Challenge

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Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Mansfield, OH helped Mini cars celebrate their 55th anniversary during the Vintage Grand Prix weekend on June 28-29. The feature event was the Can-Am Mini Challenge where 49 classic Minis, divided into five classes based on performance potential, started the race.

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Joe Huffaker from Sonoma, CA led the Can-Am Mini Challenge from start to finish. He dedicated the race to his long time crew chief Charley Pollet, who died of cancer this year. Charley was a resident of West Alexandria OH, an active member of the Ohio Mini Owners Club of Dayton and helped in planning the Can-Am Mini Challenge.

Pollett served as Huffaker’s crew chief for his races at the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) RunOffs at Mid-Ohio. Huffaker was going to let Charley drive the #77 Mini Cooper for this event and he would be his crew chief. Charlie was there as Huffaker carried the ashes of his friend in his Mini during the victory lap.

Huffaker said that “Charlie fought his battle with cancer courageously, and was very focused on it. Whenever we emailed or talked on the phone together. When Charlie finally had to have knee surgery, he called me to tell me that I was going to have to drive the car. I resisted, and told him "we will see and you better mend in a hurry so that we can test your knee at Mid-Ohio." Charlie passed away on March 7 of this year. For me, It was sudden, unexpected and as all of his friends and family and the Mini community knows, we are heartbroken. We all had a wonderful friend in Charlie. He was a great man, and a great humanitarian. He also kept us rolling in laughter!”

Another honored Mini was the 1963 Mini Cooper S that was raced in SCCA events from 1966 until the early 1990's by the late Bob Kimes of Dayton, OH. Andy and Rachel Nelson at Toybox Racing Minis in Ontario, Canada acquired the Kimes Mini. It has been faithfully restored cosmetically and the engine and transmission were upgraded to modern competitive standards. They hired Nick Swift from the UK to drive the car. Bob Kimes’ son and daughters were able to be at the event to see their father’s beloved Mini in action once again. Nick thrilled family and friends when he finished first in class and second overall.

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